Football: Kiev coach Lobanovsky still confident

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The Independent Online
DYNAMO KIEV fans were heart-broken on Wednesday evening, but the club's taciturn coach, Valery Lobanovsky, still rates his team's chances despite the 3-3 home draw with Bayern Munich in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final.

With just minutes to go, Dynamo Kiev appeared to be cruising to a comfortable victory but, having twice led by two goals, they squandered the advantage. "We just gave it away in the last few minutes," moaned one young Kiev fan, wrapped in a blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag.

Bayern, trying to become the first German club to win the league, the domestic Cup and the European Cup in one season, trailed 2-0 in the first half and 3-1 with 12 minutes remaining.

But the Germans did not give up and pressed forward with an all-out offensive. First a superb free-kick by Stefan Effenberg made it 3-2, then Carsten Jancker held off two defenders for a last-minute equaliser, stunning the near sell-out 80,000 home crowd.

"It's a pity - we let go of the match we had already won," said veteran football columnist Yevgeny Belozerov, of the national sports weekly Komanda. "The Germans were lucky. Our main problem was terrible defensive mistakes late in the game.

"Now I see Bayern's chances as a bit higher, something like 55-45. But I'm sure such an experienced coach as Lobanovsky will find something to change it."

The Bayern Munich president, Franz Beckenbauer, was unimpressed by the German performance. "We made a lot of mistakes," he said. "When you offer two goals to your opponents, you can only be lucky to get a draw."

But the Bayern coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, disagreed. "I think we deserved this result," he said. "I take my hat off to my players. They never gave up... and kept on fighting."

Lobanovsky, who rarely makes any predictions, still rates his team's chance at 50-50. "Rest assured, we'll make adjustments," he said. "We have not just one but a whole range of various tactics for the return match."

Effenberg said he expects another close battle. "I knew it would be tight," he said. "Even at home we will not win 3-0 or 4-0. It will be another close match, but we have a psychological advantage."

Bayern are chasing a first victory in Europe's top club competition since the last of three consecutive triumphs in 1976. They last reached the final in 1987, losing 2-1 to Porto in Vienna, while the Ukrainian champions, winners of two Cup Winners' Cups in 1975 and 1986, are trying to reach their first European Cup final.

"I want to win everything." said Effenberg. "We don't want to lose a single match. We don't know when we will have such a great team again. Look at Real. They won the European Cup last year and they're nowhere now."

Recapturing the German crown they lost to Kaiserslautern last May should be merely a formality for Bayern - they are 15 points clear going into tomorrow's home match against Schalke 04 - and they are also hot favourites to retain the German Cup against Werder Bremen in the final on 12 July in Berlin.

"The most important to me is the title," said Effenberg. "It means even more than the European Cup."

The Bayern general manager, Uli Honess, keeps repeating that Bayern have their best team in over 20 years and says they could be even stronger than the side in his playing days when they landed that treble of European Cup victories.

The last stretch for Bayern promises to be tough. The Brazilian striker Elber and the French defender Bixente Lizarazu, probably the side's two most important players, are nursing serious knee injuries which will keep them out of the game for weeks.

Bayern had won their last eight league matches without conceding a goal before they had to fight back from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw at Borussia Dortmund last weekend.

Real Madrid will seek to extend a four-game winning run at Celta Vigo on Sunday, having digested the good news that their Yugoslav striker Predrag Mijatovic has agreed to end the boycott he observed last weekend because of the Nato air strikes, a protest that cost him a $30,000 (pounds 19,500) fine.

The bad news for the Real Madrid coach, John Toshack, is that he will be without three key defenders because of yellow cards - Roberto Carlos, Fernando Hierro and Ivan Campo.

Real have risen to fourth place in the league but Toshack said he was worried by the team performance last weekend when they had to come from behind twice against Alaves for a 3-2 win.

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